British role in the distortion of Malaysian history

— Centre for Policy Initiatives
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 20, 2012

APRIL 20 — We are reproducing excerpts from two recent articles in The Guardian exposing attempts by the departing British government to cover up records of embarrassing state crimes carried out during the final years of its empire, including in colonial Malaya.

The newspaper reports concern the discovery of sequestered records that have put the British colonial authorities in a scandalous and shameful light. These include records on the conduct of the war against the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), and the involvement of British troops and police in various atrocities and abuses, including the Batang Kali massacre.

More interestingly, these revealing records acknowledge the nationalist and anti-colonial nature of the insurgency carried out by the MCP. Meanwhile other damning records had been purposely scrubbed or destroyed so that it might appear as if Her Majesty’s government had scrupulously kept her hands clean and ethical standards unsullied during the days when Britannia ruled the seas.

The newly unearthed papers await the attention of a new generation of Malaysian scholars and researchers despite the shocking scale of the operation to purge the colonial files, and the extent of the British Foreign Office’s deliberate erasure of history.

The Guardian a couple of days ago revealed how an official review found that “thousands of papers detailing shameful acts were culled, while others were kept secret illegally”.

The newspaper reported the conclusion of an official review that thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments in 37 former British colonies.

A group of Kenyans who had been detained and allegedly tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion had previously won the right to sue the British government, following which the Foreign Office was compelled to release the 8,800 files it held in its secret vaults.

The first of these files were made available to the British public on Wednesday at the National Archive at Kew, Surrey with the remainder expected to be transferred by the end of 2013.

“The papers at Hanslope Park [where the Foreign Office its secret archive] include monthly intelligence reports on the ‘elimination’ of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of Aman said to have been ‘roasted alive’; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

“However, among the documents are a handful which show that many of the most sensitive papers from Britain’s late colonial era were not hidden away, but simply destroyed. These papers give the instructions for systematic destruction issued in 1961 after Iain Macleod, secretary of state for the colonies, directed that post-independence governments should not get any material that ‘might embarrass Her Majesty’s government’, that could ‘embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others e.g. police informers’, that might compromise intelligence sources, or that might ‘be used unethically by ministers in the successor government’.”

Not only were sensitive documents disposed of, there was also the instruction to the departing British diplomats and officers that when such documents were burned, “the waste should be reduced to ash and the ashes broken up”. This information on the emphasis placed upon the destruction of the files is gleaned from a handful of instruction documents that survived the culling.

The Guardian also reported that documents which survive from Malaya “suggest a far more haphazard destruction process, with relatively junior officials being permitted to decide what should be burned and what should be sent to London” on the eve of decolonisation.

The missing Batang Kali papers

A preceding article in the newspaper on Tuesday (April 17) is headlined “Colonial Office files detail ‘eliminations’ to choke Malayan insurgency” and exposes the British’s favoured method of targeted assassination.


“The ‘elimination of ranking terrorists’ was a repeated theme in secret monthly reports on casualty figures circulated by the director of intelligence in British-controlled Malaya during the 1950s.

“Long-lost files from the Emergency period, when insurgents attempted to drive out colonial occupiers, reveal how the protracted jungle war was fought to drive communist groups into submission and deprive them of food and support.

“The first tranche of documents belatedly transferred from the Foreign Office depository in Hanslope park, near Milton Keynes, to the National Archives in Kew, show how British officials in Kuala Lumpur interpreted virtually all anti-colonial protests as evidence of a planned communist takeover.

“But many potentially embarrassing documents, including probably some of those relating to the alleged 1948 massacre by Scots Guards of 24 villagers in Batang Kali, appear to be missing.

“These missing papers could have been among scores of files listed for destruction in the colony’s final months.

“A compensation claim by relatives and survivors of the killings — described by some as the ‘British My Lai massacre’, after the US troop killings in Vietnam — is due to come to trial in London in May.

“Among documents that survived the transfer are reports issued monthly from the director of intelligence in the Federation of Malaya.

“‘The last month of 1956 brought a total of 41 eliminations of terrorists, which is average for the year,’ the director, G.C. Madoc, noted. ‘During the year, 287 terrorists were killed, 52 were captured and 134 surrendered. The [communist] politburo policy of avoiding contacts and conserving terrorist strength remains in force.’

“Madoc added: ‘In spite of the considerable difficulties of creating underground control organisations from the jungle, it is known that the MCP [Malayan Communist party] is striving continuously to implement directives on subversion in town and villages …’

“Hence the need to maintain constant watch over the gullible and ambitious opponents [of] the existing regime who are natural and probably unconscious targets for subtle forms of subversion.”

“Casualty tables written for December 1956 record: ‘Ranking terrorists eliminated — 8.’ The phrase “eliminated” is used repeatedly to describe the killing of insurgents. In January the following year, Madoc recorded: ‘In Selangor a small but important success was achieved when the whole of the Ampang branch, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was eliminated.’

“In March 1957, less than six months before the colony’s formal independence, a monthly intelligence assessment observed: ‘By the standards of the last year the number of terrorist eliminations may be considered satisfactory’.”

There is much to learn from these boxes of Top Secret files that have only now come to light due to the Kenyan lawsuit. The process of culling and purging the record practised in other colonies besides Kenya was one that deliberately sought to remove incriminating evidence.

Here is a chance for Malaysians to sift through and determine what really happened in our recent history that has oft been the victim of official propaganda.

This evident distortion of reality was not only done by our former colonial master but also acquiesced by the Alliance government that Britain cultivated, nurtured and felt to be a safe enough pair of hands to which to pass the baton. — Centre for Policy Initiatives

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 6:05 pm

    There should be more relevant articles on GE13, Bersih 3.0, corruption, etc at this crucial time.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 7:04 pm

    Sorry to digress.

    Anak ADUN Terlibat Skandal

  3. #3 by monsterball on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 7:15 pm

    When the British occupied Malaya…there were no better than the present Govt.
    You can say UMNO b created by Mahathir copied the British wholesale in slave driving and bullying tactics.
    You can also say….the British at that time…love to divide and rule and so is UMNO b today.

  4. #4 by mauriyaII on Friday, 20 April 2012 - 9:07 pm

    Malaysians are such an unlucky lot. It is like being saved from the frying pot and into the fire. The British colonialists controlled their colonies by the divide and rule method because they were fewer in numbers compared to the colonized people. Fire power alone would not have saved from the wrath of the oppressed.

    The UMNO B government has made the divide and rule method into an art. They not only divide the people into the Bumi and Non-bumi category but they also pit the Malays into UMNOputra Malays and the other Malays into beggars along with the non Malays. They even enhanced the art by coming up with their own version of Islam whereby all not conforming to their Islam were termed as kafirs.

    Even after 5 decades of merdeka, UMNO B under the evil Mamakthir Mohamad Kutty is still claiming that the Chinese and Christians are trying to take over the country. They have coined new terms to call non-Malay citizens as PENDATANG and have come up with a Social Contract which was not in the Constitution of independent Malaya.

    The British introduced the draconian ISA to get rid of their enemies during the Emergency. It was their barbaric tool to cow their enemies into submission.

    The UMNO B government used the ISA to incarcerate members of the Opposition parties into submission. To UMNO B, ISA was and is a political tool. It was and is being used against anyone opposing their abuse of power. The original ISA has been replaced with a new one giving wider powers to the Police Force that has become UMNO B’s hatchet men.

    When a new government takes over in Putrajaya, one of the things that need to be looked into how the constitution and the separation of powers of the executive and the legislature were raped and manipulated by UMNO B to stay in power.

    Above all the evil Mamakthir should be hauled up in a court of law to answer to all the abuses of power and corruption, the worst being making the Judiciary, MACC and the PDRM into puppets of UMNO B.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 7:12 am

    So, got such thingy like a British GENTLEMAN aaah?
    D files n records show d DARK SIDE of d Great British Empire, where d sun never sets

  6. #6 by k1980 on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 11:57 am

    failure to repay loan is HA RAM! Heard that, oh Tachootin, Syahreechat, and thousands upon thousands of unmo memebers?

  7. #7 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 12:20 pm

    The brits were basically ok. I am not defending them. But IMO they are much better than umno. Umno has no equal, really. That is for sure. During the times of the brits things were different. Situation prevailing then was nothing like now. Communists lurking about (from the brits’ perspective communists are bad people). And the general populace then were not educated at all. And etc etc. Basically a ruler then would be pushed to adopt harsher methods. You see 40yrs ago our parents just whacked us, as children, into compliance. Today, parents often need to reason with the children; and actually make room for their children’s views. The point is measuring past acts with today’s standards would almost certainly produce unbalanced conclusions.

    Looking at umno today and measuring umno’s conduct using prevailing standards and expectations give us one inescapable result. And it is that umno is dead rotten. Going by today’s standards, we are really not far from some of those african nations.


  8. #8 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 12:46 pm

    What about concealing historical facts or distorting them? Now these are bad. Records of historical events must be reliable and if possible, complete as well. The intentional act of rendering them incomplete is irresponsible. Past events almost always become the building blocks for the future. Blurring the past would adversely impact the future.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 1:41 pm

    BN govt now has excuse – even the Brits covered up Kenyan Mau Mau & Malayan Batang Kali massacres in distortion of history. That’s not confined to standards long ago in 1950s (when even Churchill covered up military sightings of UFOs. The 1960s and 1970s smear campaign by security agency M15 against former PM Harold Wilson was covered up. Even in recent times Brit (Blair) govt is accused of cover up the illegality of Iran War and 1999 paedophile report implicating paedophiles within highest level of Blair’s govt. Didn’t Brit govt try cover up that MRSA had been found in British milk some years ago? Whilst we have our Lynas Brit energy dept and corporations launched PR campaign to down play Fukushima’s tsunami nuclear accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.The other bastion of matured democracy – USA- has its fair share of cover up – Watergate Scandal, Iran-Contra Affair, My Lai Massacre, Pentagon Papers etc. Now even China govt tries to cover up killing of British businessman Neil Heywood in China. Fact is no government is honest or transparent. Governments & people in power within it will hide embarrassing facts inimical to their political/electoral standing if they think they can get away with it or that the benefit of a successful cover-up outweighs the risk and harm to them of being caught covering up.

  10. #10 by Taxidriver on Saturday, 21 April 2012 - 2:39 pm

    MCP fought to free then Malaya from foreign occupation. UNMO helped foreign occupiers to destroy MCP. It becomes crystal clear who are the patriots and who are the anjing kepada orang putih

You must be logged in to post a comment.